ATLANTA—11Alive Sports has launched an ongoing blog to track the various signings and trades during NBA Free Agency, which started at 12:01 a.m. EST on Sunday (July 1).
The blog will produce updates throughout the month, especially during this 10-day window of superstars finding new homes and teams creatively moving assets, perhaps as a means of clearing the decks for prospective free agents.
In the spring of 2017, and shortly after being traded to the Mavericks, Nerlens Noel rejected Mark Cuban's formidable offer of four years, $70 million.
Fast forward to the present: With eminently replaceable averages of 4.4 points, 5.6 blocks and 0.7 blocks from last season (30 games played), the oft-injured and offensively challenged Noel (still only 24 years old) settled on a "1+1" contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder (player option for Year 2).
Such is life in the NBA. Five years ago, Noel was the proverbial face of the next generation of NBA rim-protectors. In the present, though, he's just another under-whelming performer with a history of injuries.
On the flip side, the Thunder should be commended for investing a low-cost flier on the one-time Kentucky star.
If Noel can recapture his defensive/rebounding/shot-blocking glory of 2015 (first year of live NBA action), he might be an interesting building block for the future. In simple terms, a younger version of the old Serge Ibaka (before the obsession with three-point attempts)
Granted, it's a small sample size, but check this out: For the Feb. 27-March 13 stretch of 2015, Noel enjoyed a scintillating seven-game average of 11.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.0 blocks ... and count 'em—3.1 steals.
So, what do you think of the Lakers' new cast of supporting players—Lance Stephenson (mid-level exemption), JaVale McGee (veterans-minimum exemption) and Kentavious Caldewell-Pope, who re-signed with Los Angeles for roughly $13 million?
Does this put Los Angeles in a position to easily make the Western Conference playoffs next year? If that sounds like an odd question, since LeBron James has been to eight consecutive NBA Finals, take heed of the following Twitter nugget (from yours truly--below):
With these supplemental pickups (all one-year deals), the Lakers no longer have the requisite cap space to sign Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins. But they can always pick up the phone and inquire about Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, via trade.
The Orlando Magic might have the weakest roster in the Eastern Conference. As such, the club's hands were tied in the case of restricted free agent Aaron Gordon.
Luckily, though, the two parties executed an equitable agreement, with Gordon accepting the Magic's $84 million offer (covering four years).
The Detroit native in me HATES that the Lakers are dominating this blog. But then again, the club's flurry of moves cannot be ignored here.
In chronological order ..
**On Sunday night, the Lakers re-signed shooter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (along with Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee).
**Earlier on Monday, the Lakers renounced their rights to restricted free agents Julius Randle, who's reportedly seeking a contract in the neighborhood of $15 million.
**Soon after, the Lakers signed point guard Rajon Rondo to a one-year, $9 million deal.
On the surface, swapping out Randle (last year's averages: 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 56-percent from the field) for the aging Rondo doesn't make much sense ... until realizing the Lakers are clearly going all-in for next year's free agent class (Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson).
The Jazz have re-signed Derrick Favors to a two-year contract worth $36 million, but it comes with a big caveat: According to reports, only the upcoming season offers guaranteed money.
Feel free to skip Entry #9, listed below ... now that LeBron James has agreed to a monster four-year deal with the Lakers.
Hmmm, maybe the billboard in Philadelphia was on to something.
According to various reports, the handlers for LeBron James (but not The King himself) met with the 76ers over the weekend.
According to Spotrac.com, a Web site that continually tracks the NBA salary cap, Philadelphia has the fourth-most 'practical cap space' this summer—at roughly $31.4 million. (The top three: Lakers, Bulls, Hawks.)
Put another way, the Sixers are one of the few NBA teams that could pay LeBron at least $30 million next season ... without having to deconstruct their roster to make things fit under the cap.
For the Hawks' consideration, there's one less pure shooter on the market.
Veteran guard Nik Stauskas (formerly of the Nets) has reportedly agreed to terms with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Last season was a debacle for Stauskas, who cumulatively averaged 4.4 points and just one three-pointer made for the Sixers and Nets.
But we shouldn't rush to judgment on the kid's long-term potential.
When he was at full health from 2015-17, Stauskas owned respectable two-year averages of 9.0 points and 35-percent shooting from beyond the arc. Plus, the University of Michigan product doesn't turn 25 until October.
At the same time, the Sacramento Kings should feel shame for selecting Stauskas at No. 8 overall in the 2014 draft, bypassing on productive assets like Dario Saric, Zach La Vine, T.J. Warren, Gary Harris and Clint Capela.
And if the Kings were so desperate to draft a shooting ace ... they could have at least plucked Doug McDermott from Creighton.
Speaking of McDermott, he has reportedly OK'd a three-year, $22 million with the Indiana Pacers.
According to Yahoo! Sports writer Jordan Schultz, the Spurs are apparently seeking two unnamed players and three first-round picks from the 76ers (see above Tweet), with trade talks involving two-time All-NBA forward Leonard.
With Leonard being one year away from unrestricted free agency, the Spurs should be commended for initiating trade talks with prospective suitors right now, even if they're in no grave rush to make a deal.
There was also another report from Schultz, stating that neither Joel Embiid nor Ben Simmons were requested in the Spurs' reported offer to Philly.
Using the powers of deductive reasoning ... we can speculate that San Antonio wants Dario Saric and Markellle Fultz (last year's No. 1 overall pick) in the blockbuster package.
Both players are on entry-level NBA contracts; and realistically speaking, the Spurs could easily hold onto Saric (restricted free agent in 2020) and Fultz (RFA in 2021) for at least six more seasons, if not longer.
Back in early May, there were loud whispers of the Phoenix Suns extending a 'max' contract offer to Rockets center Clint Capela (2017-18 averages: 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks), despite his limited skills on offense, in terms of manufacturing shots in half-court sets.
Fast forward to the present: With the Suns still wallowing in the good fortune of drafting Arizona center DeAndre Ayton (No. 1 overall pick) ... suddenly the Phoenix front office isn't so compelled throw absurd money at a defensive-focused asset.
Is that fair to Capela and his handlers (Wasserman Media Group)? Eh, probably not.
But it's a perfect reason why every NBA team should want their non-superstars to hit restricted free agency, whenever that times comes available.
The reasoning for this: The Rockets can simply sit back and let the market dictate Capela's worth; and assuming the price tag isn't too high, Houston can then match the offer sheet ... without ever wearing the proverbial black hat during contract negotiations.
As it relates to Capela, with Phoenix seemingly out of the mix, it'll be interesting to see if another club can force Houston's hand, in terms of guaranteeing Capela an average annual salary north of $17 million per year.
In case you're wondering ... the seven highest-paid centers in the NBA (Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Rudy Gobert, Andre Drummond, Steven Adams, Hassan Whiteside) possess an annual range of $24-$29 million.
Did you check out any satellite sports radio Sunday?
For reasons unknown, Paul George is getting a lot of negative heat for re-upping with the Oklahoma City Thunder (four years, $137 million), without even taking a meeting with the hometown Lakers.
Wait ... what?
This, in a nutshell, underscores why the NBA can be a turnoff sometimes:
a) If George had been from New Orleans, would these same national pundits be up in arms over George spurning the people of Louisiana? I'm guessing not.
b) Last I checked, there's nothing in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that requires the Lakers to be relevant at all times.
Dear lord, the franchise has averaged only 31 victories over the last seven seasons; and yet, the NBA has flourished quite well during this seven-year stretch.
So, why does the national media still feel obligated to protect and promote the Lakers at every turn? Yes, it's a flagship franchise ... but it's hard to have much empathy for a franchise that cannot produce in pressure situations, despite a number of built-in advantages (market size, location, tradition, legacy), compared to other clubs.
c) As a free-market capitalist, you will never hear me complain about someone gleefully accepting a $137 million contract offer. Especially when the cleverly crafted deal has an out clause after two seasons.
New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins will reportedly meet with officials from the Pelicans and Lakers this week, regarding future employment (above Tweet).
Surprisingly, more teams haven't thrown their hats into the derby. Yes, Cousins incurred a major Achilles injury in January and may not be at full strength for the majority of this season.
But that's short-sighted thinking, factoring in Boogie's age (only 27) and absurd production from last season (averages: 25.2 points, 12. 9 rebounds. 1.6 blocks, 1.6 steals)—prior to being shelved for three months.
The Mavericks were originally viewed as strong contenders to land Cousins in free agency; but their pursuit of DeAndre Jordan has apparently eliminated Boogie from the mix.
ESPN (namely my old friend from the Sports Illustrated days, Arash Markazi) has been all over a story that could have legs ... or mean absolutely nothing in a few days.
The four-letter network has photographic evidence of LeBron James AND HIS AIRPLANE landing at an airport in Van Nuys, Calif.
So, what does this mean for the Lakers' chances of signing LeBron in the coming days? Well, it certainly doesn't hurt, but it's important to remember something crucial about this particular pursuit:
It's public knowledge that James spends the bulk of his offseason at his home in Los Angeles.
Here's a quick refresher course on the rules of engagement among competing clubs during free agency:
I. FIVE-DAY MORATORIUM
From July 1-6, NBA free agents are barred from officially signing contracts with new clubs. During this period, however, players and their representatives can talk and/or meet with other franchises. They even have the luxury of agreeing to deals, in principle, provided they don't formally put it down on paper.
It's worth noting: During this five-day window, the vast majority of agreed-upon deals are leaked to the press, presumably by player agents.
II. EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULES
According to CBAQFAQ.com, a Web site which continually monitors changes with the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are seven 'signing' exceptions during the July 1-6 moratorium:
a) Of course, NBA teams can sign first-round draft picks to slotted contracts.
b) Second-round choices can accepted tender offers, which ostensibly serve as one-year contract offers.
c) Restricted free agents on rookie-scale contracts can accept (or decline) maximum qualifying offers from their current club.
d) Restricted free agents are permitted to sign offer sheets with other teams. However, the 48-hour matching period wouldn't initiate until after July 6.
e) Restricted free agents can accept (or reject) less-than-maximum qualifying offers from their current team.
f) NBA clubs are permitted to sign street free agents to minimum-salary deals (no bonuses).
g) Street free agents who possess existing options to play in the developmental "G-League" can sign two-way contracts with clubs.
h) NBA teams have the right to waive or claim players from other teams.
On Thursday, I divided the 2018 free agents into five classifications--relative to how the Atlanta Hawks might perceive that talent pool.
Spoiler alert: Neither Kevin Durant nor LeBron James will be signing with the Hawks in the coming days.